As Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2019 draws to a close, we caught up with body positive Instagram star and advocate for eating disorder recovery, @_nelly_london.
Who are you?
So my name is Nelly and I am a body positive influencer. My content mainly focuses on lingerie and fashion but I also talk a lot about eating disorder recovery and my personal journey.
When did you realise you had an issue with food?
I struggled to realise I ever had a problem because my issues started so early on, essentially I grew up with a very skewed view on food, eating and body image. From as young as I can remember I know I hated by body and I thought that food was the reason for that, so there was never a specific moment I realised I had a problem, I guess I just always had.
What was your experience of eating disorders?
Eeesh good question haha. So I started to experience disordered eating behaviours when I was about 12, these developed from there and at my worst stage of disordered eating I was suffering from 3 eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) concurrently and my life was controlled entirely by food and thoughts about food. I was also periodically abusing laxatives, something that has unfortunately caused permanent damage to my digestive system.
What was your experience of recovery?
Finding help was the hardest part. I had been to my GP multiple times and received no help whatsoever. I had so many setbacks, so many doctors telling me that they didn’t think I had a problem because I was actually overweight and didn’t meet their criteria. When I think about that now I honestly feel so sad, I was suffering an indescribable amount and was extremely unwell, both mentally and physically, but at least 3 doctors told me I was fine. After years or trying, I was lucky enough to find an amazing eating disorder specialist who honestly saved my life. I was in an incredibly privileged position as when I finally asked my parents for help, they were able to take me to a private clinic. If it wasn’t for the help I received there I don’t know what my life would be like today.
What helped you most in your recovery?
Learning that recovery is not linear was a really important lesson that I learned. I used to really beat myself up if I had a setback or slipped back into dangerous habits, but when I finally realised that healing would involve a lot of ups and downs I was able to be a lot more forgiving of myself. There definitely were a lot of ups and downs, but I was supported throughout them all.
How have you found life since? What’s the best thing about your life since recovery?
When I was at my worst I honestly and truly believed that that would be my life forever. I thought I would spend my entire existence trying to lose weight and being controlled by food. I accepted the fact that I would never see my friends, I would never experience fun or exciting things, I would never have any meaningful relationships with partners because the only committed relationship I was ever capable of having would be with my eating disorder. So the fact that I now have an incredibly fulfilling life is the biggest blessing I could ever ask for. If 18 year old me saw the things I was doing now she would never believe it.
Your social media is very body positive, how has the bopo community helped in your recovery?
I think discovering the bopo community completely changed my outlook on life (honestly!). I had no idea that there were men and women out there genuinely embracing their bodies and celebrating their “imperfections”. It was such a breath of fresh air to realise that not everyone is a perfect size 8, hourglass figured, smooth skinned, perfectly dressed goddess. I now no longer compare myself and my body to everyone I see on Instagram, instead I admire the beauty and uniqueness of all different bodies. Again, something I never thought would be possible.
So do you think you are truly recovered and your eating disorders are behind you?
This is such a tricky one. Whilst I now live an amazing life that I am completely in love with, I know that I will be working on my behaviours around food for the rest of my life. I still have days where I need to consciously make an effort to not let problematic thoughts control me, but other days I forget I even ever had an illness.
Is there any advice you can give to someone in recovery now?
Know that it won’t be a smooth road to recovery, but that’s totally okay and you will get there.
Use your support system whenever you need to, don’t feel like you are a burden to anyone and asking for help or just a bit of support is really important.
Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s, everyone is different and your journey is yours and yours alone, don’t feel bad if you think your progress is slower than others.
Look forward to the future but experience the present. Although you might not be exactly where you want to be, right now is important, don’t wish it away.
You’ve got this.
If you think you are suffering from an eating disorder, or know someone who is, you can get help and advice at Beat Eating Disorders here.
At Ditch the Label, we can also offer help and advice regarding this or any other issue you are concerned about. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.